How To Get Total Information Awareness (Without Really Trying)How To Get Total Information Awareness (Without Really Trying)
The Pentagon's <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_information_awareness">Total Information Awareness</a> (TIA) project, a massive effort to use information technology to know everything about everyone in the name of national security, was too controversial, so Congress pulled the plug on funding in 2003. (<a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=16741">Recent reports</a> suggest that the effort was secretly taken up by the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nsa">
May 9, 2006
The Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) project, a massive effort to use information technology to know everything about everyone in the name of national security, was too controversial, so Congress pulled the plug on funding in 2003. (Recent reports suggest that the effort was secretly taken up by the National Security Agency, where the spotlight of public scrutiny never shines.) In any event, I'm here to tell you that you can build your own "Total Information Awareness" system using Google Alerts. It's fast, easy and free to do. And fun.Google Alerts lets you set up Google searches. When new "hits" to those searches are posted on the Internet somewhere, Google Alerts sends you an e-mail with a link.
It's a very simple tool. But I'm going to tell you how to use it to constantly stay in touch with the people, places and topics you care about. Why would you want to do such a thing? Well, it can make you a better person -- by that I mean a better professional, a better friend, a better family member. Let's say you have a friend who lives on the other side of the country. Let's call her "Janet Birkenstock." You can set up a Google Alert using quotation marks around her name that searches both news stories and web sites. Then you can just forget about it. From then on, whenever Janet runs a marathon, gets promoted, is quoted in the local newspaper, or does anything that someone mentions in the news or on the web, you get an e-mail with a link to that page. You can always be the first to congratulate her, or whatever. The point is that you're staying in touch with and remain aware of your friend without any effort at all. Now imagine setting up similar searches with all your friends, family members, former colleagues and others -- and, of course, yourself (to find out what others might say about you). You can set up dozens or even hundreds of these Alert searches, and they will work for you forever, finding information on people you care about and letting you know what's new with them. Now set up searches about your neighborhood or small town. If some developer is planning to bulldoze the local park and build a shopping mall, you'll be the first to know (and can visit the local city council meeting in time to provide input). Let's say you have a favorite columnist, and want to find out what else I, er, I mean "he or she" writes about. Set up an alert with that person's name. If you have a blog, you can use Alerts to tell you when someone has linked to you. The kinds of searches you can set up is limited only by your imagination. Here are instructions and tips for using Google Alerts for Total Information Awareness.
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